Catiline or Catilina was Henrik Ibsen's first play. It was written during winter 1848–49 and first performed under Ibsen's name on December 3, 1881 at the Nya Teatern (New Theater), Stockholm, Sweden. The first Norwegian performance under Ibsen's name was at Det Nye Teater in Oslo on August 24, 1935.
Forced to support himself after his father declared bankruptcy, Ibsen went to Grimstad as a pharmacist's apprentice. There he both prepared himself for university and experimented with various forms of poetry. While studying, he found himself passionately drawn into the Catiline orations, famous speeches by Cicero against the elected questor Sallust and his conspiracy to overthrow the republic. Ibsen chose this famous conspirator as the subject for his initial effort, finishing Catiline in 1849. Henrik Ibsen expresses in the prologue to the second edition that he was profoundly inspired by the contemporary tempestuous political situation of Europe, especially he favours the Magyar uprising against the Hagsburgian empire. He explains in the prologue to the second edition written in February 1875, that the case of Catiline had special interest for him, because, as he writes: "there are given few examples of historical persons, whose memory has been more entirely in the possession of its conquerors, than Catiline". Thus, Catiline can be read as one of Ibsen's heroes, alongside Brand and Gregers Werle.
The main character in this historical drama is the noble Roman Lucius Catilina, based on the historical figure of Catiline. He is torn between two women, his wife Aurelia and the Vestal virgin Furia. As characteristic of Ibsen's early work, the play is metrical (iambic pentameter) in blank verse.
Although Catiline is by no means regarded among Ibsen's best plays,[according to whom?] it foreshadows many of the important themes found in his later works. Catilina, full of doubts and torn between love and duty, is quite similar to characters in Ibsen's later plays, such as John Gabriel Borkman, and Halvard Solness in The Master Builder.
Furia is also the prototype of some of the later female characters, such as Hedda Gabler.
References and notes
- Prologue to the second edition by Henrik Ibsen, Henrik Ibsens skrifter, Universitetet i Oslo. www.ibsen.net - 2005
- Blankner, Frederika (1938). A History of the Scandinavian Literatures. Dial Press Inc., New York. ISBN.
- Ibsen (1937). Ibsen's Samlede Digterverker. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag. ISBN.
- Catiline, the Warrior's Barrow, Olaf Liljekrans at Project Gutenberg
- Catiline at Project Gutenberg (Norwegian)